Concurrent to the president’s continued attempts to put an end to the Russia investigation, serious issues remain with the fact that apart from any questions of active collusion, Russian interests sought to exert an outsized influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
As a part of those efforts, Russians may have funneled money to the National Rifle Association that was illegally used to benefit the Donald Trump campaign, as a report from POLITICO explains.
The new report lays out multiple confirmations that the Federal Election Commission has opened what’s referred to as a “preliminary investigation” of the group, seeking to ascertain whether it used foreign money for political activity here in the U.S.
The NRA and its associated lobbying group, the Institute for Legislative Action, funneled $30 million to the Trump campaign. That money has come under scrutiny recently for an entirely different reason than its possible Russian origin, with Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez among those to have blasted the president for simultaneously benefiting from those donations and dragging his feet on gun policy reform.
Following last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Trump administration faced intense pressure to do something to address school safety in the face of the excessive proliferation of guns in the United States. To that end, the White House recently unveiled a plan directing in part for government support of arming teachers to be boosted.
While Trump has gone back and forth on the need for common sense gun policy reform, he has also, of course, often capitulated to Russian interests on the issue of Russian election meddling. He’s often sought to downplay the meddling, chalking the scandal up to the Democrats being supposedly desperate to explain their loss to him in the 2016 election.
Even still, he continues to face allegations that his team cooperated with the Russians in their efforts to influence the outcome of the election, although he often desperately claims innocence in that regard.
The reported preliminary investigation into the NRA compounds the lines of inquiry associated with the Trump team, lines of inquiry that are continuing to unfold despite the Friday dismissal of Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
According to POLITICO, the FEC’s investigation could, at this stage, “require the NRA to turn over closely guarded internal documents and campaign finance records.” Depending on what the commission finds, a full blown investigation could be launched and criminal referrals could eventually be filed.
The investigation was sparked at least in part by a complaint filed with the body by the American Democracy Legal Fund, whose treasurer, Brad Woodhouse, has said that he’s received his own confirmation of the reported preliminary investigation.
The report of the FEC investigation comes after a report earlier this year of an FBI investigation into the same issue.
McClatchy reported back in January that FBI counterintelligence investigators were scrutinizing “the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA.”
Torshin sought at one point during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, although his efforts proved unsuccessful.
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